Hey, welcome back to Parenting Cents, glad that you’re here. Today, How To Get Kids To Focus Better.
I have noticed and worked a lot with parents and a lot with kids, and many of the questions have to do with “how do I get my kid to focus better or to pay better attention?” and there are some problems with ADHD.
For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that we’ll address in some other article. I’m not talking about that specifically today because a lot of the questions that come through have to do with situations that are pretty typical for childhood.
In fact, a more accurate diagnosis might be childhood rather than ADHD. Now I’m not saying that ADHD doesn’t exist, it does. What I’m getting at here is that kids are usually really good at focusing on what they’re interested in. Do you see the disclaimer there?
Typically when parents are concerned about the focus of their kids, it’s about something the parent is worried about like school or chores or paying attention to some instructions that have been given. Now is that important to the child? Maybe or maybe not. Kids are really good at filtering out what they need to pay attention to and what they can ignore.
Single dad, Five kids, okay.
Single dad, five kids and he is pulling his hair out, he is so frustrated because his kids won’t focus, pay attention to him, listen to the instructions that he’s giving them and his question to me was, why do I have to tell him 12 times before they’ll do something? I asked him an important question right after that.
Why do they do it after the 12th time?
Kind of a funny question when you think about it, but it’s an important one as well. Are they responding after time 12? If they are, what’s different the 12th time that he’s asking them?
Now you can imagine how this goes, right? So maybe dad’s in fixing dinner, and he says to his kids, “Hey, you guys. Get those toys picked up and finish up what you’re doing because we’re going to eat in just a few minutes.” Now put yourself in the kid’s place. Kids sitting there, hearing that, input and it sounds like white noise, you know just kind of an shh or maybe like those old Charlie Brown cartoons, remember all the parents, all the adults seemed like *oae.. oae.. oae* and it didn’t mean anything to the kid. Why?
Because of the tone of voice, the way it was delivered, it just kind of blended in and it became white noise. Time number two, dad says, “Hey guys, you need to pick up that stuff and get ready for dinner.” Now, do you hear the tone is a little more urgent, right?
And now the kid’s thinking, “no, not yet, not yet.” See, they know what level it needs to get to before they need to respond because what’s dad going to do? Obviously, he’s going to ask again. I can wait. Oh, is that frustrating to hear that? But just check in with it.
So times three, “You guys, are you listening?”
Kids processing, is it time to listen yet?
No, not yet. See the kid is really good at focusing on what’s important to him, whatever he’s doing right there, right? Not so good at focusing on what dad wants him to focus on. Why? Because it hasn’t hit that level of importance yet for him. Time number four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.
Finally, time twelve, dad is beat red in the face, dad’s voice is loud now, it’s gone up like a hundred decibels, and now as the kid hears this, he registers, oh, time to pay attention, right?
Because now is the time that I need to respond, if I don’t, I’m going to get clobbered, right? So here’s the strategy, you guys, how to get your kids to focus more on what you want them to focus on? Turn your words from garbage into gold so that as soon as that child hears your melodious voice, it triggers something in that little brain to say, hey, this is important, pay attention, focus and they’re already really good at focusing on what’s important to them.
Boy, that is so important to understand, isn’t it? So how do we turn our words from garbage into gold? Let me ask you a question, how often do you want to ask them before they respond? I’ve asked this question to a lot of parents, there is a very fair number one favorite answer to that question.
What? How would that be if you could say something and you only have to say it once, and your child immediately orients and attends and pays attention and focuses? That would be really awesome, right?
So here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to learn from time number 12 what it is that makes the difference, and it’s the consequence, right? What if you were to follow your words with an appropriate consequence?
Hmm, then your words become the trigger for that child understanding that a consequence is imminent, and it’s not your tone of voice, it’s not that your face is beet red and that you’re yelling and screaming as a parent, it is merely that you say the word and they know now what to expect so in an in a recent video. I also shared the difference between a slot machine and
Machine. Let’s just review that really quickly because of your consistency as a parent matter.
A slot machine, I was presenting at a conference in Las Vegas, and you know how all those casinos are everywhere in these hotels, and people stand there all day long, feeding money into these machines that give them nothing in return. A slot machine, right?
Someone feeds money into a slot machine, and it doesn’t respond, what do they do?
I mean, it spins, and you hear all the noises and the bells and whistles, but it doesn’t give you anything, you put more money in. Seriously, you can go watch people doing this all day long. Why are they putting more money in? Because sometimes, it pays off, sometimes it pays off. Can you see how that might relate to parenting? What about a vending machine?
You see someone put money into a vending machine. I watched this on a university campus, I saw this person put the money into the vending machine, nothing happened, they looked at it all offended like, what? I saw this person kick the vending machine, they start pounding on it, they tried to shake it, something’s wrong, right?
And then you go complaint to the management. I tell you what. If you complain to the administration in a casino that a slot machine didn’t pay off, they’ll laugh you off of the property, it’s the nature of the device, and it’s the nature of the machine that trains the user of the machine how to interact with it so what have we taught our kids?
Have we trained them that we’re a slot machine?
Yes, sometimes you play me long enough, sometimes I’ll pay off, and we’re all human, okay. I mean, there are times when you just cave in, and you give your kid what they want even though you know that you’re enabling that behavior, right?
Okay, we do that as parents but for general purposes, are you a vending machine or are you a slot machine? Increasing your consistency in how you approach, so you say something, or you asked your child to attend or to focus on something, that’s important to you, and then you follow it with a consequence consistently. That turns your words from garbage into gold, and as they hear your voice, it triggers them, oh, I better pay attention to that because something’s going to happen. Next, that’s going to be really important to me.
Do you see how this works? You can turn your words from garbage into gold and that way, you can help your kids to use their already installed ability to focus on things that you find to be important too.
As a parent, your words are gold. At least we’re going to turn them from garbage into gold. I’m glad that you were here today. I’ll see you in the next article.